3 Point Muscle Building Method: Stretch, Mid-Range & Contraction

Maik Wiedenbach helps you to view workout structure in a whole new way. Learn the value of targeting each muscle group with a stretch, power and contraction exercise.

One of the most overlooked aspects when it comes to training is the fact that you can break down motion into three parts: stretch, mid-range and contraction. So?

My point is that if you where to train all three aspects during each workout, them gainz would be greater. Most trainees are covering the mid-range portion quite well. This is the part of the muscle that is the strongest, so all your big exercises fall into this category:

  • Pulls
  • Presses
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts

Obviously these movements should be the cornerstone of every training program. But your workouts and progress can be made more effective if you supplement with one stretching exercise and one movement from the contraction group.

Why bother doing this when the mid-range covers the strongest part of the muscle anyway? Excellent question.

Adding a stretch movement creates additional length in the muscle. In other words, if you have more real estate, you can build bigger houses. The contraction component increases blood flow and takes cell volume to the max (it also makes you look temporarily huge), which makes them fantastic finisher movements.

Here are some ideas and examples, broken down by body part.

Maik Wiedenbach

Targeting each muscle group 3 ways

Shoulders (focus being on the medial delt)
  • Stretch - Leaning side lateral raises. I prefer to combine cable and dumbbell raises. Start with the cable, then switch to the dumbbell as you fatigue.
  • Power - Overhead press.
  • Contraction - Partial side raises, where you simply move the arms to about 45 degrees away from the body.
Back
  • Stretch - Dumbbell pullover for stretch, barbell would be the more advanced version.
  • Power - Bent over rows or pull ups for power.
  • Contraction - Stiff arm press downs for contraction.
Chest
  • Stretch - Any type of flye. Push flyes where the elbow is bent more to the tune of 120 degrees can be a very effective way of getting a deep chest stretch.
  • Power - Incline press would be my choice for the power motion as I do not think much of the flat bench press.
  • Contraction - Kneeling cable crossovers.
Legs
  • Stretch - Sissie squats (misnomer of the century).
  • Power - Goblet squats, squats or leg press.
  • Contraction - Leg extensions, here you may go for high reps. The handles on the side are there to press your butt into the seat and to help you avoid involving the hips.
Hamstrings
  • Stretch - Stiff legged deadlifts. Deficit if possible, meaning you'll stand on a plate or small box for an even greater stretch.
  • Power - Single leg press, with a downward intention. Basically you are trying to slide your foot off the sled while pressing up without actually doing it. One would hope this explanation would not be needed, but if you have been in gyms as long as I have you would have provided the same explanation.
  • Contraction - Leg curls. These would be best if done lying down. You can do 6-8 reps at full range and then lift the hips off the bench for some short reps.
Calves

Can be done in one set. I prefer the donkey calf raise or the leg press: You would start with full reps, then perform stretch reps at the the bottom part of the motion. Have your training partner help you up to the top for a few contracted reps. The day after, your stride will mimic that of an aging chimp.

Biceps
  • Stretch - Incline curl, but set the bench only as far back as your shoulder can handle it.
  • Power - Pull up underhanded. Yes, it is the best biceps exercise there is but the standing barbell curl will work also.
  • Contraction - 1/2 curls. Here you grab a barbell that is about 20% lighter than your regular curl weight, and curl from a seated position. The bar will travel from the legs up to full a contraction. Alternatives would be a cable concentration curl or a top range machine curl.
Triceps
  • Stretch - High incline extensions on the bench. You should set the bench at almost vertical, this way you can give a maximum stretch to the long head of the triceps. Alternatively, you could use  rope extensions. In this case I would use two ropes, so you can get the maximum ROM out of the exercise. 
  • Power - Close grip bench or a dip movement would be my choice for the power motion.
  • Contraction - Kickbacks for the contraction; these are often done wrong. I personally am not a big fan of leaning forward too much. I feel most people waste too much energy keeping their upper bodies in place and stabilizing their shoulders, as opposed to actually working the triceps. Here is my take: only go into a slight lean, tuck the elbows behind the body in order to keep the triceps elongated and squeeze each rep.

I would try to implement all 3 of these exercise variations into each workout. The order can differ from athlete to athlete, or even within each muscle group.

As an example, most people would start they leg workout with the big kahuna, the squat, and then migrate to the smaller exercises. I actually prefer using sissy squats first. This helps to increase the ROM during squats, With that said, there are no hard and fast rules.

That is it from my end, for more info check my website www.maikwiedenbach.com.